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MORNINGS WITH PAULA ZAHN

Funerals Being Held Today in Israel for Victims of Yesterday's Suicide Bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa

Aired December 3, 2001 - 07:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We now are going to turn our focus to what is going on in the Middle East. Funerals are being held today in Israel for victims of yesterday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. A car bomb blew up outside an ice cream parlor in Jerusalem about 10 minutes after two suicide bombers killed themselves and 10 victims at a nearby mall. Many of the victims were teenagers.

The Palestinian Authority is under international pressure to shut down the terrorists.

Jerrold Kessel is covering developments from Jerusalem this morning -- Jerrold, what's the latest from there?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

And two big questions, really, of what is Yasser Arafat doing? Is he doing enough to satisfy the United States, the international community as a whole, the Israelis? And the other big question, what will, what might Ariel Sharon and the Israeli military do in the wake of these devastating suicide bombings?

Well, Mr. Sharon returned early to Israel this morning after his brief visit to the United States at a stepped up meeting that was advanced from Monday to yesterday with the president at the White House. He met with President Bush, was back and as soon as he got off the plane outside Tel Aviv went to a nearby military base, met with the security officials for the Israeli military, laying, we're told, options on the table for action that Mr. Sharon might or might not decide on.

And he will be convening his full cabinet of the National Unity Government later this evening after he addresses the Israeli people on national television and we might get an idea then about what kind of action he contemplates.

But in the meantime, that international pressure being stepped up all the time on Yasser Arafat to undertake action against the Palestinian militants, particularly the Islamic radicals who are held responsible for the series of suicide bombings.

One of the top security men in the Palestinian Authority, Colonel Rajoub, was very emphatic that they mean business.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIBRIL RAJOUB, PALESTINIAN PREVENTATIVE SECURITY: I think that there are, indeed, various groups who have only one target, to destroy everything through bloodshedding and killing. I think that it's the time for everybody to conclude that conclusion. The Palestinian Authority have concluded this conclusion. We will take all the necessary measures in order to put an end to this cycle of violence, cycle of bloodshed and killing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KESSEL: Strong words and the Palestinian Authority said they've undertaken strong action. At least 120 members of the Islamic radical groups detained overnight. But still the pressure on Yasser Arafat, with the Israelis saying those arrests are really sham. Yasser Arafat hasn't made the strategic choice which is needed of him to go after the militants -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jerrold, there are reports that at least seven members of Mr. Sharon's cabinet are pushing for the idea of toppling Yasser Arafat. How serious of a consideration is that at this point?

KESSEL: Yes, it is a very, very good question. You point to the real issue that's going on in Israeli minds on the political level, you could say on the philosophical level. There are members from the center, the right of the government who are saying we're fed up with Yasser Arafat. He is not going to ever be a partner. It's an illusion to believe that. That's what the Israeli right is saying.

Big question, does Mr. Sharon go along with that, or is he willing, as the secretary of state and the presidency, to be saying this is the testing time for Yasser Arafat to prove himself? Will Mr. Sharon wait? We shall see, perhaps as early as this evening, if he's ready to send his military in -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Jerrold Kessel, thanks for that update.

The attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa come as the U.S. attempts to broker a cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis. The White House condemned the attack, but did not call for restraint by Israel, as it has recently.

Major Garrett now joins us from the White House with the very latest from there -- good morning, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. now, there's been a key phrase the Bush administration has used dealing with the Israelis and the Palestinians since it took office, and that is cycle of violence. Whenever there has been an episode of violence between either side, the administration has always urged both sides to use restraint, not to exacerbate the cycle of violence.

Well, that phrase was noticeably missing from President Bush's response to this attack over the weekend, the series of attacks in Israel and Haifa. The Bush administration concluding that the attacks on the civilians were so grotesque, so enormous, that there was no way the U.S. government could in any way limit the options of the Israeli government in its response.

So what it did instead was turn all of its attention to the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Secretary of State Colin Powell summarized that administration emphasis in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on LATE EDITION yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a good statement. Now we need to see action. Statements aren't enough any longer. Words aren't enough any longer. I spoke to Chairman Arafat last night right after the first bombing in Jerusalem, but before Haifa. And I made it clear to him that he had to act because not only was this a terrible attack against innocent Israelis, a terrible act of terror, but it was also an attack against him. It was an attack against his authority. It was an attack against Palestinian leadership and it was an attack that he could not overlook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: President Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met in the Oval Office for about an hour yesterday. The White House released this photo. No accident that you see the two leaders shaking hands, the Bush administration doing everything right now it can, Paula, to signal to the world it is going to stand side by side with Israel as the Israeli government decides what to do about this latest series of terrorist attacks.

The Bush administration also growing a bit more frustrated as it has stepped up its own involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seeing now more violence, more tension and a great sense of unease here at the Bush White House as to what will come next -- Paula.

ZAHN: Major Garrett, thanks so much. See you throughout the morning.

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